Since the economic downturn, unemployment is reaching unprecedented levels. According to Eurostat, in July 2013, the unemployment rate in the EU was 11%, amounting to almost 27 million men and women unemployed. Furthermore, unemployment is hitting more severely some groups such as young people, migrants and people with lower skills. In July 2013, the youth unemployment rate in the EU was 23,4%. The Employment Pack, Towards a Job Rich Recovery launched in 04/2012 aims at addressing this challenge.
Furthermore, the economic crisis has had severe consequences increasing the level of poverty and social exclusion across the EU. In response to this challenge, in February 2013, the European Commission launched the
Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion (SIP). The SIP Communication urges Member States to pursue active policies prioritising social investment and the modernisation of their welfare states in order to address the unemployment, poverty and social exclusion challenges brought about by the economic crisis and the sustainability challenges posed by the ageing demographic trends.
In this context, JRC research work focuses on providing scientific evidence and policy guidance about how ICT enabled interventions and innovations can support addressing the above challenges in the context of the EU policy framework, and measuring their contribution in socio-economic terms in achieving the policy objectives.
Employability and Employment
According to CEDEFOP, it is expected that 90% of jobs will require some sort of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills, and today a lack of labour supply with ICT skills is a challenge in Europe with 700,000 uncovered vacancies by 2015. Furthermore, together with increasing unemployment, the gaps between supply and demand of labour remain high, while at the same time, new forms of labour (crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, time banks, on-line volunteering) are emerging. The key challenges for research and policy are:
how to increase individuals (in particular young people´s) employability;
how to effectively address the supply-demand mismatch in Europe, and
how to provide adequate support to enterprises to allow them to cost-effectively recruit and select new candidates.
The JRC's research focus is on providing scientific and systematic theory and evidence about how ICT-enabled processes and tools can support in addressing the above challenges.
Project: The future of work
In the context of the European Employment strategy, the Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, the Grand Coalition for ICT Jobs, and specifically in its 2012 EMPLOYMENT PACK, the JRC is conducting research to inform policy makers on some of the new forms of work and pathways to employability mediated by the internet.
This research focuses on internet-mediated work activity: crowd-sourced labour, crowd funding, online volunteering and reciprocal work exchange (time banks). These have been developed over the last 10 years and are now growing in importance.
Key themes include: opportunities for entrepreneurship and self-employment, skills and social inclusion, paid and non-paid work and employment transitions. These trends are of relevance to employment related policy related temporary work, entrepreneurship and flexible working), skills policy, digital skills and access, SMEs, microfinance, social inclusion and public service delivery. There is considerable public, private and third sector activity in these areas, and many initiatives can be seen as models of social innovation. The result will be a report to policy makers in the fields of employment and social policy, and digital inclusion.
ICT-enabled Social Innovation
The economic crisis and the sustainability challenges posed by the ageing population trends have helped increase unemployment, poverty and social exclusion in the EU. To help address these problems, the
urges European Union's Member States to prioritise social investment and the modernisation of their welfare systems. EU Social Investment Package for growth and social cohesion (SIP)
JRC is exploring, in collaboration with
, how ICT-enabled innovation can enhance integrated approaches to social services delivery in different welfare systems within the EU with a research called the ICT-Enabled Social Innovation project (IESI). DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion ICT for independent living and elderly care at home
European policies such as the Social Investment Package for Cohesion and Growth (SIP), the Employment Package for a Job-rich Recovery and the
European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIPAHA), are driving the policy agenda for the coming years in the field of long-term care. Their strategy is focused on:
reducing growth in long-term care needs;
increasing access to and quality of care services;
increasing productivity and jobs in the care sector, and
reinforcing the efficiency of long-term care systems.
These policies highlight the importance of information and communication technology (ICT)-based care services in achieving these objectives. These services range from assistive to robot technologies, and include telecare, social networking, virtual reality and other online services. Research has demonstrated their value in helping elderly people to be more independent and cope with their physical and mental conditions. ICT-based care services also help carers to deal with stress and to carry out their care tasks better. They can also reduce the use of more expensive care services, avoiding the need for hospital admissions and shortening the length of stays in institutions.
However, ICT-based services for long-term care are only being used on a small scale in Europe. Little scientific evidence of their effectiveness and efficiency is available. In addition, there are technological barriers for end-users, inefficient business models, and difficulties in integrating these services into the care system. These challenges have been identified in previous JRC research.
The JRC is therefore leading a programme of research to map and develop more systematic and scientific evidence on ICT-based services for independent living and elderly care at home. This programme aims to help European policy makers make decisions on how to design, implement and transfer successful strategies for long-term care, based on technological solutions.
Project ICT AGE: Long-term Care Strategies for Independent Living of Elderly People (2013-2014)
The research aims at supporting DG EMPL efforts to help Member States achieve the political objectives of the 2013 Social Investment Package (SIP) for long-term care. Within the proposed work programme of the Working Group on Age of the Social Protection Committee for 2013-2014, and based on previous JRC work on how ICT can support informal carers, research is being undertaken to support the development of long-term care strategies and the promotion of independent living of older adults at home through technology based solutions.
The project has the following specific objectives:
to identify in Europe, United States and Japan good practices of technology based services and solutions for independent living at home for different needs of older adults, which have been successfully implemented;
to analyse the good practices case by case in terms of business case, business model, technology and organisational change, technical standards, quality, scale and scale-up, and national and EU role for leadership and transfer;
to elaborate manuals for policy makers on long-term care strategies for policies to increase the independent living of older adults with the use of technology.
Past project: Digital Games for Empowerment and Inclusion (2011-2012)
The Digital Agenda for Europe aims at the overall objective of having everyone connected and empowered, which poses special challenges towards disadvantaged parts of the population, to be included. In this respect, research shows that the digital games industry is expected to grow in the future. Developing a Digital Games industry can contribute offering a key instrument to fulfill these opportunities and addressing the key challenges set out in the Digital Agenda for Europe. Digital Games use the platforms and techniques of the videogame industry to create products and services and have a potential beyond the simple fun of playing may serve social purposes like inclusion, health, skilling, learning and other public services, where their action complements more classical approaches. Because of their ludic dynamics, they are usually very welcome to different kind of public (not only youngsters) and this is their strength.
The aim of the exploratory study was to better understand:
what are the industrial, market, social opportunities and limitations of Digital Games for users' empowerment and as a tool for socio-economic inclusion of people at risk of exclusion (such as youth at risk, migrants, elderly, unemployed, low-educated);
what are the technological, market, implementation, adoption and policy challenges of creating this potential and if and how policy actions could address the challenges identified.
Groups at risk of social exclusion
The Europe 2020 strategy establishes Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a core element for five of the seven flagship initiatives to promote growth in the European Union: the European Platform Against Poverty and Social Exclusion, An Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, Youth on The Move, and the Digital Agenda for Europe, and the Innovation Union.
Europe 2020 Strategy and related Flaghships promote the use of ICTs to tackle social inclusion, from young people using ICTs to improve life chances, through raising the skills and working conditions for workers in general and migrant workers in particular, to systems for supporting families balancing work with care for elderly relations and to build industry capable of delivering solutions for the challenges of health and demographic change.
With the policy goal of addressing the specific needs of low skilled people, ageing population, unemployed youth and unemployed older workers, and on the mismatch between emerging demands of the Digital Economy and the skills available in the market place, key policy and research challenges are:
how can digital inclusion, digital competence, ICT mediated social interventions and ICT based social innovation for inclusion support inclusion of groups at risk of socio-economic exclusion, and
how can policy support these processes and the related actors.
The JRC has been, since 2006, providing specific policy support and research activities focusing in particular on Digital Inclusion initiatives and the enabling role of ICTs for inclusion and on Social Inclusion initiatives making use of ICTs.
ICT for integration of immigrants
Information and communications technologies (ICT) have great potential to help immigrant communities participate more fully in society, through improved learning, social life, and access to employment. However, hard evidence on migrants´ usage of ICTs and how these support their integration in their host countries and communities is still very limited.
ICTEGRA project : Survey on ICT to support everyday life integration of migrants (2012 –2013)
In order the above knowledge gap, the Directorate General for Information Society and Media and IPTS are carrying out a study which for the first time will gather through a survey statistically representative and comparable cross-country data on the ICT skills, access and usage of 1500 migrants from the main migration groups living in 3 EU Member States.
The concrete research objectives are:
to identify ICT skills, access and usages by migrants;
to describe socio-demographic, economic and migration profiles, and find relationships between use and access to ICTs and integration, with cross national comparisons;
to evidence the support to digital inclusion policy initiatives or policy initiatives / actions on the integration of migrants through ICT, and
to elaborate and document the methodology to conduct the survey, to enable it to become longitudinal over time and/or to be realized across all EU MS.
ICT and Youth at Risk of Social Exclusion
Young people at risk of social exclusion are a priority target of EU social and eInclusion policies. This clearly reflects a concern that digital and social marginalisation might be critically exacerbating each other, what has, in today’s society, greater implications for younger generation. But it also reflects the increasing awareness of an ample range of opportunities for inclusion opened up in the digital world. Statistical data shows that an overwhelming majority of the European young people is online, what is generating an increasing number of ICT-related empowering strategies and services, aimed for example at enhancing young people’s employability in today’s turbulent job market. The IPTS studies in these areas aim at uncovering the state of the art and exploring policy opportunities offered by ICT.
The implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) will require a sustained level of commitment at both EU and Member States level. It can not succeed without a major contribution by other stakeholders". In particular, the implementation of the 2.6.1 Digital Literacy and Skills objectives for empowerment and emancipation calls for multi-stakeholder partnerships, ICT training and certification outside formal education systems.
In this context, digital inclusion and social inclusion actors such as Public Internet Access Points, public libraries, Third Sector organisations including NGOs as well as social workers, in a word, eInclusion "intermediaries" play a crucial role, both in providing Digital literacy to excluded groups as well as using ICT to support social inclusion of groups at risk of exclusion such as to acquire new skills (through eLearning platforms) or for employment.#
The key policy and research challenges are:
a)to understand and characterise the diverse set of actors involved in implementing eInclusion policies;
b) the need for evidence about the socio-economic impact of eInclusion intermediaries on the target groups; and
c) the lack of both available methodologies and practice in measuring the impact of those actors.
Project MIREIA - Measuring the Impact of eInclusion Actors on Digital Literacy, Skills and Inclusion goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe
The JRC and DG CONNECT are conducting the MIREIA project, which aims to better understand the role of eInclusion intermediary actors and to create adequate instruments to show how they contribute to the achievement of European eInclusion policy goals. In concrete, the objectives of the study are to:
Characterise and map eInclusion intermediary actors in Europe in order to know better what eInclusion intermediary actors are, which services they provide, to which targets groups, how they operate and innovate and how they can be classified.
Build and test an impact assessment framework that will allow to systematically collect end-users micro-data through grassroots organisations and aggregate it at various levels, in order to facilitate the measurement of outcomes and the estimation of the impact of those actors on employment, education and social inclusion.
Safe mobility for the visually impaired
Moving independently and securily in our cities is often a challenge for the visually impaired people. The JRC has developed SESAMONET, a secure and safe mobility network based on micro-chips embedded in the ground containing information about the path. A walking stick can read the signal of each micro-chip.
Secure and Safe Mobility Network (SESAMONET)